The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings

A CurtainUp Review
Thank God for Jokes

The one thing I know for sure about jokes after being a comedian for 15 years is that you can never tell jokes to the people who the jokes are about. — Mike Birbiglia
Mike Birbiglia
Mike Birbiglia
Stand-up comic of yore Henny Youngman was famous for using his wife as the brunt of his comic spiel. He would begin with an example of outrageous behavior with which he took exception then say "Take my wife (pause) please." Comical spiel-er and perennially boyish Mike Birbiglia also takes his wife as the object of some of his humor in the early part of his new play (of sorts) Thank God for Jokes that's currently enjoying an extended run at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre at 45 Bleecker. It is a well-calculated riff on the habit or nature of some people to always be late.

This observation segues easily into his directly addressing a noticeably late-arriving member of the audience. It goes on a bit too long but it is, at her expense, funny. She not so much amused as slightly embarrassed. Many of Birbiglia's acute observations are not jokes at all but stories taken directly from his life experiences. This was true of his previous one-man shows, Sleepwalking with Me and My Girlfriend's Boyfriend in which he used his own idiosyncrasies and misgivings about human nature to frame something close to being a play.

In Thank God for Jokes , as informally directed by Seth Barrish, Birbiglia frames his relaxed ninety-minutes around a guest appearance as the host at the 2012 Gotham Independent film Awards where he unwittingly got into a quagmire of his own making over remarks about director David O. Russell. Birbiglia also makes it clear that "jokes are a volatile type of speech," and that all jokes are offensive to someone; to illustrate he recalls his gig at a Christian college where he referred to Jesus as a Jewish socialist."

Birbiglia displays an instinct for selecting incidents that have been personally meaningful as well as universally true. His point being that his own humiliations and misadventures in life have led him to see and share the humor behind them; for example, a visit to his urologist, an encounter with a policeman for driving with a suspended license, and a testy encounter with a flight attendant over the presence of nuts in his sandwich. Less funny is a longish digression about his "bombing" on a Muppets show because he cursed.

Dressed in a plaid shirt, jeans and sneakers, Birbiglia has an almost perpetual smile, as he gives us examples of his being empowered by even his most unfortunate and embarrassing encounters. He also prods audience members to share their own unfortunate situations which unleashes more unexpected humor than one might assume. As it seems obligatory for all comics to include a little potty humor these days, Birbiglia obliges with a short chat he and his wife had with our President about baby poo.

Is everything Birbiglia says funny? No. But, for his fans and for those who are just getting to know him , Thank God for Jokes is basically just him saying to us, "I want you to know my side of the story."

Search CurtainUp in the box below Back to Curtainup Main Page

Thank God for Jokes
Written and performed by Mike Birbiglia
Directed by Seth Barrish
Scenic Design: Beowulf Borritt
Lighting Design: Aaron Copp, Davison Scandrett
Sound Design: Jim Corona
Production Stage Management: Lauren Cavanaugh
Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes no intermission
Lynn Redgrave Theater/Culture Project
45 Bleecker Street
Tickets: From $56.50
Performances: Wednesday-Sunday at 7:30pm, with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 4:30pm
From 02/02/16 Opened 02/10 Ends 05/29/16
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 03/23/16

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Thank God for Jokes
  • I disagree with the review of Thank God for Jokes
  • The review made me eager to see Thank God for Jokes
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted at to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter
Subscribe to our FREE email updates: E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message. If you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.

©Copyright 2016, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from